South Africans gathered in front of the TV, huddled on couches, anxiously awaiting the first State of the Nation Address (SONA) by SA's new president, Cyril Ramaphosa – which held hope after Jacob Zuma resigned, of a corruption free future for the country.
On Friday the 16 February, Ramaphosa entered the decidedly more positive atmosphere at the National Assembly to a standing ovation from the members.
His speech began reminiscing about the great leaders of South Africa's past and assured South Africans that working together towards a common goal is key to success. He did highlight the countries rising poverty and crime rates but sparked hope in the audience as he promised to focus on job creation for the youth in order to uplift the economy.
He said that, "One of the initiatives will be to convene a Jobs Summit within the next few months to align the efforts of every sector and every stakeholder behind the imperative of job creation. The summit will look at what we need to do to ensure our economy grows and becomes more productive, that companies invest on a far greater scale, that workers are better equipped, and that our economic infrastructure is expanded. We will expect this summit to come up with practical solutions and initiatives that will be implemented immediately."
Ramaphosa said that he aims to increase foreign investment in the country as well as investment in the manufacturing sectors by creating localisation programmes for South Africans. He said that the government will seek to invest in the development of local businesses in a joint effort to tackle the problem of youth unemployment.
Despite the positive nature of his speech, Ramaphosa made clear that his plans to end corruption in state institutions and state-owned enterprises would be forging forward immediately. He said: "This is the year in which we will turn the tide of corruption in our public institutions. The criminal justice institutions have been taking initiatives that will enable us to deal effectively with corruption." He referred to fraud and corruption within SARS, NPA and many other private institutions such as KPMG, saying they would be held by stricter laws and that the private sector would be held to values of tax morality.
Ramaphosa alluded to a reshuffle of the cabinet and intervention within state-owned businesses, specifically, Eskom. He went on to state that: "These SOEs cannot borrow their way out of their financial difficulties, and we will, therefore, undertake a process of consultation with all stakeholders to review the funding model of SOEs and other measures. We will change the way that boards are appointed so that only people with expertise, experience and integrity serve in these vital positions. I want to repeat this. We will remove board members from any role in procurement and work with the Auditor-General to strengthen external audit processes."
Ramaphosa closed his speech by calling for unity within the country and bringing the pride of South Africa to the forefront by exciting memories of former president Nelson Mandela and the late, great musician Hugh Masekela. His closing statement bringing the assembly into another standing ovation: "We have done it before and we will do it again – bonded by our common love for our country, resolute in our determination to overcome the challenges that lie ahead and convinced that by working together we will build the fair and just and decent society to which Nelson Mandela dedicated his life."
He ended off by quoting Masekela's song, Thuma Mina, anticipating a day of renewal and of new beginnings.
"I wanna be there when the people start to turn it around. When they triumph over poverty. I wanna be there when the people win the battle against AIDS. I wanna lend a hand. I wanna be there for the alcoholic. I wanna be there for the drug addict. I wanna be there for the victims of violence and abuse. I wanna lend a hand. Send me.”
"Now is the time to lend a hand,"
"Now is the time for each of us to say: ‘Send me’."
Below are the highlights of the SONA and the full version of Ramaphosa's speech follows in the next video.